It’s Kind of a Funny Story…

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved stories. She had loved them ever since she was very small, a toddler or younger. As many children so young do, she had imaginary friends. She would play with them all day, making up stories about them and what they did, even though she did not realize that is what she was doing at the time.

She grew and went to school. In first grade, when she was about seven, she gave up her imaginary friends. The teasing at school wasn’t worth it. She also believed she had talent in drawing. The girl still made up stories from time to time, even wrote them down, but those kind of stories were rare. Yet, even though she never considered them so, she made up stories without realizing it as she played games of make-believe with her sister.

First, second, and third grade brought a Young Writers and Illustrators conference. The girl attended all three years. She listened to the authors speak and she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. The second grade girl came home and told her mother that she wanted to be an author.

But over the next few years, the girl forgot her desire to write. She continued to draw as a hobby, but it was truly just doodling. The girl devoured books. She read any book she could get her hands on. By the time she was thirteen and in about eighth grade, she discovered the fantasy genre. She loved The Lord of the Rings.

But we are getting too far ahead. When she was thirteen, a magazine she read was having a story contest. Write a sequel to a fairy tale. Excited at the prospect of being published, the girl set to work with a pencil and loose wide-ruled paper to write a sequel to Alice in Wonderland. She typed it up and sent it away. Nothing came of it, but that was the relighting of her desire.

Over the next months, the girl wrote another story about a candy store. Then, upon receiving two notebooks for her fourteenth birthday, she wrote a small skit. And then a nineteen-page historical fiction story. And then a series about a homeschooling family. And then a fantasy series. And then she wrote a very large fantasy series which consumed the next two or three years of her writing. Thousands of handwritten pages filling many, many notebooks. Publication didn’t matter. It was a nice thought, but it mostly stayed a dream hidden in the back of her mind. Her joy was the writing.

After this fantasy series ceased, the girl tried another story. A blatant rip-off of LOTR, at least with the characters and a few of the plot elements. Then, one about four children who find out that two respected elders in their village are going to try to take over the world. That story, to this day, still has a place in the girl’s heart. It was in this story that she met a talking black cat named Tempest. Within the next few years, he jumped out of her story and to her side. She had an imaginary friend once more.

The girl was no longer a child. She was now a young lady. When she was nineteen, she received her first laptop. She finished typing the story she had been typing up onto her mother’s computer. This was going to be her first real attempt to get published, in her mind. A hundred plots or so come and gone and this was going to be the first one she ever edited.

But over time, she realized that the story had problems. Bigger problems than she could fix by changing words. The story would need to be rethought and rewritten. She had rewritten before, but this wasn’t something she wanted to rewrite. She became enamored with a new story. A type of story she had never tried before. Still fantasy, but a modern type and set on earth, instead of set in a world of her own creation. Through her journeys on the internet, she had learned about NaNoWriMo. On November 1, 2011, a story called The Curse Fulfilled was born. With the help of National Novel Writing Month, the first draft was complete by April of 2012.

Almost immediately after TCF was finished, the young author dove into the story that was next in the series. There would be five books in this series. And it was the best thing she had ever written. Every book had been like that, better than the last.

In between writing Book 2 and whatever she fancied at the time (three short stories immerged during the next months), the girl played around with editing TCF. But it was all small edits, changing a word or sentence here and there. After all, her mother and grandmother had loved the story. She loved the story. What could be wrong with it?

It was July of 2013, just over a year ago. The girl had signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo, writing a story that she had started just before Camp NaNo, making her a rebel, but she didn’t care. In her year in browsing the internet and finding blogs of fellow writers, she had made a few online friends. Some were closer than others. One of these asked the girl if she was interested in a word war.

The girl had discovered word wars during her first NaNoWriMo and loved them. She agreed and word wars were had. So that other people could join them, the friend opened a chatroom. Word wars happened around the clock every day during the rest of that month. The girl exceeded her goal of 30k.

But something more important than writing 30k happened during those few weeks. She typed up a small section of what she had been writing and shared it with the chatroom. It was only a few paragraphs. But it was critiqued– kindly but it hurt. The rose-colored glass the girl had been looking through her entire writing life had been shattered.

There was more to writing than word choice and plot. The main thing that had been called out on those few paragraphs was tension. This was something she understood once explained. And she realized that she had never upped the tension ever in any one of her stories. The girl slowly began to learn that even though she had been writing for years and years, she barely knew anything technical about the craft.

Over the next month, the girl and the friend got to really know each other. In August, they swapped manuscripts, the girl absolutely terrified as she gave the friend TCF. The critique was again kind, but it showed her just how much work she had to do.

Jump ahead to May 31, 2014. Robyn Hoode’s revisions of TCF finally done, she sends the story once again to her friend and two other friends who have agreed to beta-read it. She also sends query letters to two agents.

During the month of June, she sees a note she had made when a plot bunny had appeared. She ponders it. What if there was a world plagued by sandstorms and people who could control the sand?

And she lives happily ever after, writing and publishing many stories and becoming a best-selling author. (Well, I can hope, can’t I?)

 

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31 thoughts on “It’s Kind of a Funny Story…

  1. *applauds* I especially love the ending. Hehe… I wore rose-colored glasses for a while. Strangely enough, it was a drop of self-esteem that was what shattered them, not critique. I’ve never really gotten any critique before…

    • Thank you!
      I can understand how a self-esteem low would shatter that glass.
      Critiques aren’t easy. The hardest part is listening without trying to defend yourself. Or trying not to get upset when a particularly bad one comes. My first critique hit hard because 1. I thought it was a perfect snippet and 2. I wasn’t actually expecting critique and 3. The person who actually did the critiquing was someone who sounded like he knew what he was talking about and I respect his writing opinions.

  2. I really like the ending to this story. Can I have that ending too? (Like, I’m totally for tragedy in fiction but I WANT MY HAPPILY PUBLISHED EVER AFTER, okay?!) I loved how you wrote this out. x) I remember getting my first laptop and omg, the hours of writing it unlocked. I remember just sitting on my floor typing furiously because I couldn’t even make it to by bed or desk to type. I just HAD to write then and there. Fond memories. Now it’s like “go to your computer and write or you don’t get the cookie” (and half the time the cookie’s metaphorical). Heh. I think I’m going to write a post about why writing suddenly became hard, but sorry! I DIGRESS. Love this post. And go those bunny trails! I want to know about people who can control sand!

    (On a weird note, I just finished reading a book with the title of “It’s Kind of A Funny Story” so I opened up this post with very different expectations. hehe.)

    • Thank you. And of course, you can have that ending, too. 🙂
      Yes!!! Exactly!!! And yes, I am following those bunnies. They’ve proven to be very friendly but a little teasing and sarcastic at times.

      (OMGollum! I saw you had read that book! No wonder you came to this post thinking something else…)

  3. As everyone else said, I like that ending. You’ve got a healthy amount of determination, which will do you good on that path. As for the critiques, I hope I didn’t do any damage. There’s a place where being helpful requires hiding the enthusiasm for a little bit— I hope it was helpful, and I didn’t just burst your bubble for nothing. I’d hate to have done anything permanently bad.

    But, nevertheless, what a journey. You’ll have plenty to tell young authors about.

    • Thank you.
      No, you didn’t do any permanent damage as far as I can tell, except to my little bubble of conceit. And it was probably time for it to be popped. It was a tough lesson that I would’ve needed to learn sooner or later. I hope I haven’t offended you by mentioning the critiques this way. Truth is, I mention them because you have been very helpful to my writing journey. I’ve got one of the most awesome critique partners ever. I only hope that I can help you in return. This either sounds cheesy or is going to make someone cry. I can’t decide.

      Indeed.

  4. Awww, what a wonderful story! It made me smile reading it, especially because I’ve written a few such stories in third person with “the girl” as the main character. Not about my writing journey, but other such ones. Maybe I’ll let you read one of them someday. 🙂

  5. Agree with those above about the ending to this story. I’ll take one of those too….

    Lovely story. It was so cool to read your writing backstory. (And I’m really glad I didn’t read this until after I sent you my TFC feedback because I would have been going “I know critiques hurt and I know that I make a freaking ton of comments and I don’t want to plunge her confidence into the Pit of Dispair…”) I think we’ve all gone through something like this. You start out so enthusiastic and confident and the first few read-throughs of your story look great… and then you learn stuff and realize just how little you know and suddenly every word you’ve written looks like junk. But, then you learn more, and you start to get stuff right, and you have a brilliant new idea, and things start looking up again.

    I probably just stated the obvious. Oh well. Again, lovely story.

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